For the past two years, Gina Keller, 53, and her fiancé, Steve Brown, 54, have been planning their wedding and waiting, sometimes anxiously, for the pandemic to end and life to return to some level of normalcy. The wedding dress has been picked and venues have been paid for, but their plans to take their vows before family and friends have been regrettably put on hold.
“When Steve and I first started dating he would always whisper in my ear, are you going to marry me? When are you going to marry me?” she says. “I almost felt pressured.” The couple began dating in 2014 and marriage was not top of mind for Gina. She had only been separated for five years after her ten-year marriage ended. She was still trying to enjoy her newfound freedom and get to know herself better. Gina had never truly lived on her own before, having gone straight from her parents’ home in her mid-20s, to being a wife.
But Gina and Steve were not strangers. In fact, although the couple have been together for only about seven years, they’ve known each other since she was six-years-old, and he was seven. They were both born and raised in two-parent homes in the same Brooklyn, New York neighborhood and witness to enduring marriages that managed not to succumb to divorce—Brown’s parents only parting after his father’s passing earlier this year.
Steve was the boy from around the corner who came to play with her brother. “He had this big red afro. I always thought that he was cute.”
By the time they were teenagers, Gina went away to Syracuse University, and in her mind, Steve, was now the young man who went to college with her cousin. “We tried dating, but he seemed preoccupied. I always tease him that there must’ve been a girl at LIU who held his interest,” Gina says. “It never really turned into anything. He later moved to North Carolina and had a family. I didn’t see him again until he came back to New York 20-plus years later.”
Around that time, Gina received a Facebook DM from Steve. “Two weeks before he reached out to me, I’d written a list of 10 things I wanted in my next relationship. When we started talking, I realized he had seven or eight,” she says.
Over the years, Gina has discovered a side of Steve she may not have seen fully before. “Steve is a very gentle soul,” she says, her own voice softening as she describes him. “He is very, very laid back. More of a take-it-all-in-before-responding type of person. I’m very outgoing and social.” Their attributes manage to balance each other out.
“At this point, I know I wanted to be married to him only,” she says. “I would tell him you know if you ask me, I will say, ‘yes.’ Now what if I had been firm on him having all 10 of my [desired qualities]. I would have missed out on love.”
The gentleman that he is, Steve asked Gina’s parents and her son, Gavin, for permission, before proposing. How could they say no? The couple’s love story had already touched many people. Especially those who saw Gina’s Facebook post last year, where she shared Steve’s medical report from the doctor.
“What did he say?” she inquired.
“He said all is good, but one side of my heart is beating slower than the other. I told him that must be the side I love my woman on,” he replied.
Not only family and friends gravitated to them, but also those who had learned about their story through the brand they created in 2018, myBKlife. The brand is now a movement that embraces all that’s beautiful, challenging and unique about Gina and Steve’s life. “It’s our signature of what Brooklyn means to us. It’s about raising a black boy in Brooklyn, you know, who’s about to go to college? It’s about black love and families.” It’s a place where they can spread love, because as you may already know, it’s the Brooklyn way.
They wear the myBKlife logo proudly on t-shirts, caps, jackets, sweatshirts and sell them to others who want to show their Brooklyn pride as well, whether they live in the borough or not. Together, they also produce the Car Chronicles, a YouTube podcast where they talk relationships, date nights and updates on Gavin’s shenanigans. “Steve and I are always taking a drive around the city, so one day I turned on Facebook Live and just started talking.” People began watching. “It evolved into us having guests and specific topics. We received such great positive and constructive feedback, we just kept going with it,” she says.
Gina may have to wait a few more months before she is legally Mrs. Brown. She will have come full circle, since Brown is also her maiden name. Today, Gina is now fully aware of who she is and what she wants. The one thing she knows for certain: “I know that I am marrying the love of my life.”